How about a train ride from Nashville, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Phoenix to Southern California, or Louisville, Kentucky, to Indianapolis?Amtrak late Wednesday released a proposed map of new and expanded service if it can land the $80 billion President Joe Biden proposed for the rail service as part of his American Jobs Plan, a massive $2 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure.Amtrak’s vision calls for bringing new intercity rail service to up to 160 previously unserved communities over the next 15 years, including 30 potential new routes and enhanced services with more daily trips on existing routes.
And he says sleeper cars are making a comeback.
By Henry Grabar, March 15, 20213:28 PM
William J. Flynn took over as CEO of Amtrak at the worst possible time. It was April 2020—one month after the country locked down—and ridership on the quasi-public passenger rail network was down by 97 percent. Two recovery bills later, Amtrak’s finances have been shored up. Though business remains way down, vaccines are rolling out, and Flynn aims to double Amtrak’s pre-pandemic ridership in the next two decades. We spoke last week about what America’s interstate rail system could look like after COVID. We discussed major undertakings like the Gateway Project, the new tunnel beneath the Hudson River connecting New York and New Jersey, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called the most important infrastructure project in the country. Flynn told me he does not pay attention to the astronomical cost of rail construction in the United States relative to peer countries. He also outlined his beef with freight railroads, explained why he welcomes private-sector competition, and showed me where he thinks Amtrak has room to grow after its 50th birthday next month. Our conservation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The train rumbles through the darkness along Pennsylvania’s southern edge before curving north towards Pittsburgh. It’s the middle of the night, and the sleeper cabins are lulled by the low hum of the engine and a rhythmic click-clacking from the tracks below.
These pleasant noises are interrupted every now and then by the blast of the train’s horn and the clanging bells of a crossing guard as we barrel through one small town after another. Their street lights flicker through the cabins for a moment before the darkness and the low hum returns.
Long-distance rail travel in America today is for romantics. Taking this old train between Washington DC and Chicago isn’t the fastest, the cheapest, or even the most comfortable way to get between the two cities. To travel this way, you have to love these sounds, or at least have plenty of time to kill.
Pete Buttigieg, the new transport secretary, is one of those romantics. But he has nonetheless expressed a desire to drag this country’s rail system into the 21st century. Americans, he says, “have been asked to settle for less” when it comes to rail travel. He advocates massive investment to build high-speed rail and upgrade existing regional lines, and he has the full support of ‘Amtrak Joe’ Biden, perhaps the most train-friendly president in US history.
These policies would make the transportation system much safer—and less stressful—for LGBTQ+ travelers.
By Emy Rodriguez Flores
February 23, 2021
When Pete Buttigieg was sworn in as the 19th Secretary of Transportation earlier this month, he became the first openly gay man to be named for this role in U.S. history.
Buttigieg—known for his military service and former role as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana—was chosen for his ability to bring all facets of the Department of Transportation together, according to President Biden. Those facets include improving transportation by rail, air, and road, as well as overseeing the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Highway Administration.
From scenic island circuits in Japan to Rocky Mountain adventures, these new routes have us excited about the future of rail travel.
Rumblings of a railway renaissance have been swirling recently, thanks to a growing interest in sustainable transportation. And with new tracks being laid and upgraded trains to look forward to, post-pandemic travel could involve taking the scenic route more often.
More travelers are eyeing ways to not only make their future trips stress-free, but also more eco-conscious. Countries like Scotland and Spain have announced plans to roll out zero-emission hydrogen-powered trains. The European Commission has dubbed 2021 the European Year of Rail, which aligns with their goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Even President Joe Biden, who earned the nickname Amtrak Joe for having famously commuted by train for decades as a senator, promised a “second rail revolution” on his campaign trail.